Simon Willison’s Weblog

Items in Aug, 2013

Filters: Year: 2013 × Month: Aug ×


Does Facebook Graph Search scale linearly?

You may find the paper they released about the underlying implementation useful: https://www.facebook.com/downloa...

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What are some interesting Facebook Graph Search URLs?

I rather enjoy https://www.facebook.com/search/... because it suggests that Facebook have taken polygamy in to account.

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What are some good Facebook Graph search queries?

Employment related ones can be interesting: “friends of my friends who have worked for Google” for example.

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How to find the URL of a page in an iframe?

You can’t, as this would be a security and privacy violation. Imagine an evil website which loads up Google in a full page iframe and then tracks what the unsuspecting user searches for and clicks on.

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Benefits and disadvantages of cashflow positive startups joining an accelerator program?

YC has a very low time commitment. There is a dinner once a week (which takes up the evening from 6pm onwards), and any other sessions are 20-30 minute slots you book yourself with the YC partners and advisors. My experience was that most teams have 2-3 of these a week.

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What’s it like being an attendee at Google I/O?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to spend quality time with the Google employees who built the APIs you build software on top of—the core Android team, the Google Maps people, the Chrome engineers etc. it’s kind of like Apple’s WWDC in that regard—short of going to work for Google there is no better way to meet and interrogate that many expert Google engineers in one place.

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How scalable is Django?

Django scales in exactly the same way as PHP or Rails or any other stateless shared-nothing web technology: you ensure that the web nodes (running your Django code) are independent from your persistence layer (database, caching, session storage etc) and scale then independently.

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What is a good list of conferences, speaking gigs, hackathons, and other technology-centric events where one can reach software architects and developers?

We have a pretty comprehensive list of (mostly tech) conferences in the Midwest USA here: http://lanyrd.com/places/midwest...

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What advice would you give to a new technical co-founder at a startup?

It sounds to me like you’d be better off seeking an engineering role in an existing, relatively mature startup (one with 5-15 engineers) rather than looking to be a technical co-founder of a brand new company. Startup engineering is likely to be pretty different from what you’re used to, and there’s no better environment to learn than a fast-moving company that already has a small and highly talented group of engineers.

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What are some books that programmers should read to understand logic?

Logic is more of a mathematical concept than a computer science concept—programming books are unlikely to focus on it.

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Besides MTurk, what are some good resources to use when doing market research for a startup?

SurveyMonkey and Google both offer services where you can pay to get responses to a survey from a large number of recipients:

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I have embedded videos in a PowerPoint presentation (using a fix), but now they do not play when I save the file as a .pdf. Any idea how to make this work?

It isn’t possible to embed a video in a PDF file. If you want the embedded video to play you will need to distribute the presentation in the original PowerPoint format.

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I want to write a short summary for every article I read online for future use. What is the best tool to do this?

http://pinboard.in is well suited to this. It’s a bookmarking service (like the old Delicious) with a bookmarklet that lets you quickly annotate and add tags to a link, privately or in public. For an extra fee the site will archive copies of the pages you are linking to as well in case they vanish in the future.

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Is Quip self-funded or VC backed?

VC backed: $15,000,000 Series A from Benchmark Capital. Take a look at their Quip Company Fact Sheet linked from https://quip.com/about/

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How long should I budget for an experienced designer to design a responsive ecommerce store?

There’s no single answer to this—it depends on the scope of the project. A one-page store selling 3 items is quicker to design than a thousand page store with dozens of category homepages etc.

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If I told you "Get me a 20 minute meeting in front of xyz person and I’ll give you $20 whether or not they buy into what i have to offer, would you set up the meeting?

Absolutely not. My ability to make introductions relies on people trusting me to make good introductions. If I make a poor introduction to someone it damages or destroys my ability to make introductions to them in the future. If I get a reputation for selling introductions I’ll lose credibility with everyone in my network.

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What is a good onboarding process for a new employee at a startup?

Have them deploy the site on their first day. This ensures they know how to...

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What are the most useful software everyone should use for programming and web development?

Some flavour of Linux.

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How are you gonna solve when the user has a gender issue?

Don’t ask for gender at all, or if you do make the field optional or provide a text field that the user can put anything they like in.

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What are some websites that can help me have people upvote or downvote a list of ideas?

Any web framework would be capable of this. In fact, it’s such a simple project it’s s great opportunity to build the same thing in more than one framework and find out for yourself which one you like best.

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Can I pitch my app idea to google?

You could pitch it to Google Ventures, but you’ll need a lot more than just the idea.

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How can I find short-term work experience at a startup in London?

Take a look at www.enternships.com—lots of London startup intern opportunities listed there.

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Are there any alternatives to CGI for web servers?

Yes. CGI stopped being relevant around the turn if the century! Many languages can be embedded in web servers now (mod_php, mod_python, mod_perl for Apache etc), there’s the FastCGI protocol which allows web servers to communicate with external processes without needing to start a brand new process for every request, and it’s also common these days to run an HTTP server written in the same language as your application and proxy requests to it—Unicorn, gunicorn, Jetty are all examples of this.

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How does a VC decide to make an investment?

I suggest reading Paul Graham’s latest essay, How to Convince Investors.

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What is the best resource for someone who is non-technical to learn about computer programming/creating software?

Learn to program. You don’t need to learn programming to the standard where you could work professionally as a software engineer, but having enough programming knowledge to write some simple programs and automate some simple tasks will make you enormously more capable when it comes to working with programmers—or in business life in general.

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Events (leisure): What are the best places in San Francisco for organizing a small meetup?

If it’s a technical event, there are dozens of tech companies with excellent facilities who might be convinced to host the event for free.

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Is there any alternative to devbootcamp.com or hackreactor.com in Europe?

http://www.makersacademy.com/ are running a similar program in the Old Street area of London.

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Web app: what programming knowledge do I need to create a goings on app?

For this kind of application a much more important question than "how can I build it? is "where will I get the data from?"—If you don’t have a good answer for that building the app is a waste of your time. The world is littered with local events listings apps that no one uses because they don’t have good data.

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What are the different ways in which web sites can be developed?

There are a few languages that provide an alternative syntax that compiles to HTML (Haml is quite a popular one) but generally you need to have a very good understanding of HTML in order to do any web development at all, no matter what server-side technology you use. Likewise for CSS—Sass and LESS provide alternative syntax that compiles to CSS, but they are no replacement for understanding how CSS actually works.

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What steps can I take to protect my data in case my laptop gets stolen?

Set up full drive encryption—that way if someone steals your laptop they won’t be able to access your data without a password.

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